Although there are all kinds of creative ways to find your signature scent, none is as indulgent or intimate as making your own bespoke fragrance. Perfume provides a unique sensorial experience for the wearer—especially perfume oils—which have a luxe skin feel. And because perfume oils don’t contain alcohol, they melt into your skin and take longer to evaporate than traditionally manufactured cologne. Their velvety texture deepens throughout the day as it lingers on your skin’s surface. Made from natural plant-derived essences, perfume oils have a highly concentrated scent and are free from synthetic preservatives. Blending earthy, citrus, and floral notes, DIY perfume oils don’t require a degree in chemistry—all you need is a bit of imagination and a taste for opulence. Keep reading for instructions on how to make DIY perfume oils.
There are a couple of precautions when making your own perfume oils, especially when working with plant-derived essences which can be very powerful. According to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), essential oils can be sensitizing or irritating if used incorrectly, so it’s important to stick to the ratios provided in the below recipe. Plus, some citrus essences like lime oil cause photosensitivity, so always research your ingredients. Just because an ingredient is natural doesn’t mean it’s harmless.
You should also understand the basic composition of a scent. Perfume oils are made up of head, heart, and base notes. Jeff Smith, perfumer and founder of the small-batch perfume oil company Petite Histoire explains, “Head notes are the first notes that you smell. Although there are no hard-set rules, these can be dominant for about 15 minutes. Heart notes are what carry the perfume the most, and these are most obvious for roughly 15 to 45 minutes. Base notes are the most durable of the notes and give your scent longevity. Without base notes, your scent can fade. Base notes can last for hours.”
Perfume oils also require a carrier that has little or no scent like jojoba or almond oil.
How to Choose Your Perfume Oils
Although how you blend scents is totally up to you, there are a couple of aromatic guidelines to keep in mind: Citrus notes are the most common head notes as they’re potent and assertive; florals usually make up the heart notes as they’re lighter and airy, and woodsy scents are ideal for base notes. (A sample blend would be something like bergamot, jasmine, and sandalwood.) Here are further suggestions:
Woody scent: Smith says cedar wood and labdanum are your best bets. “I like pairing these with something brighter and crisper like cognac extract, which isn’t too sweet.” Other woodsy scents include pine and sandalwood.
Musky scent: Musk notes are historically derived from animals, however, there are some botanical options. “Ambrette is the closest to a botanical musk I’ve found,” says Smith. Try blending with a white rose, or a cedar wood for balance. Vetiver is another earthy musk to explore for a depth of scent.
Citrus scent: Bergamot, lemon, and grapefruit are some citrus fragrances that are especially on-trend this season. These are strong, crisp, and revitalizing.
Herbal scent: Lavender, chamomile, and rosemary are grounding herbal essences that tend to be lighter.
Floral scent: “Florals are the heart song of essential oils and natural raw materials, and this is where you can have the most fun,” says Smith. Rose, geranium, iris, and jasmine are some of the most popular florals, as are magnolia, peony, and ylang-ylang. Smith says less is more when it comes to florals and suggests you pick a dominant floral and build around it with “surrounding foliage.”
What You'll Need
Smith recommends using no more than a 20 percent concentration of essential oils in your carrier, just to be on the safe side. Every milliliter of liquid is roughly 20 drops with a pipette or glass dropper—so for a 5 ml bottle, you’re going to account for 100 drops of liquid.
In short, one signature perfume oil = carrier oil (80 drops making up 80 percent of solution) + essential oil blend (20 drops making up 20 percent of solution).
The ratio of the notes in your essential oil blend is 2 parts base: 1 part head: 1 part heart
10 drops of base: 5 drops head: 5 drops heart
Note: If you have sensitive skin, err on the side of caution and use a lower concentration of essential oils, up to about 15 percent.
DIY perfume oils are the ultimate skin elixir, offering a silky skin-feel, staying power, and an intensity that builds throughout the day, as opposed to a one-note fragrance. Apply behind your ear, on your collarbone, and chest to help diffuse the scent. Smith suggests dabbing perfume oils on the tops of arms, and avoiding the wrists, which have more blood flow and evaporates the scent quicker. The nape of the neck is another spot for perfume oils to make a lasting impact.